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these past couple weeks have been tough. among other things that happened (and some really good things that happened, too!!) i got an email from someone saying they saw a copy of one of my pins for sale.

and i clicked the link, and yes, it was an exact copy of my pin.

someone very strategically traced or copied every detail of my artwork, and made their own counterfeit pins of a drawing i did of my cat peechee.

  • it was on shopify.

  • it was on pinterest.

  • it was on tumblr.

  • it was on instagram.

  • it was on Facebook.

  • it was on twitter.

  • it was personal.

the thief was very strategic about protecting their anonymity. (but I know who they are now and where they live and i even have their phone number if anyone wants to talk to them)

they targeted me and knew what they were doing every step of the way, even after they had been publicly confronted by other artists.

they targeted several artists and they thrived on (and continue to thrive on) knowingly stealing the work of independent artists like me.

- - -

and as i researched where else this person's counterfeits appear, i found tons -- TONS -- of my stuff copied and for sale on Alibaba.

i mentioned this to a lawyer i know who markets as an intellectual property attorney. he didn't really react. it was clear he had no professional interest in what was happening to me.

after all these years, i guess i still find it surprising that i have to be my own advocate 99.999999999% of the time, even if i'm willing to pay someone to help me in a situation that will exclusively result in a loss of a money for me!
i've been helped tremendously by lawyers in the past in protecting my artwork -- I love my lawyers -- but I also think that they tend to blow me off unless a corporate name is involved.

*8/10/16: i want to edit this to say that i recently found a lawyer who was incredibly awesome and responsive re: all of these issues and seemed as concerned as I am. if you need a referral, please feel free to reach out to me.

- - -


so if you happened upon this post, if you know me, or if you're just devastated because your artwork or your etsy photos or your products were copied on Alibaba (or anywhere else), here's what you can do.

^ This link details the process of writing and sending in DMCA takedown notices, which is what you'll need to do for sites like Shopify, Instagram, and Twitter. It's worth doing because:

  1. it helps keeps the originality and integrity of your work intact

  2. the infringer may learn from their bad behavior

  3. if it's a repeat infringer, they may lose access to the services they use to profit on stolen goods

  4. it prevents your work from being exponentially distributed from the initial theft

  5. it establishes that you care about your rights, and it's not just about money, if a bigger infringement happens down the line and you need to prove your history of taking infringements seriously in court.

seriously, i had to do that (prove my value and history in court, to show that i'm not a frivolous complainer) and it was the single most stressful experience of my life. do your work now. lay the ground.

- - -

Alibaba is a different monster.

Alibaba doesn't accept DMCA Takedown notices.

If you file a complaint about an individual listing by clicking the "Report issue" button, it will not be responded to.
If you contact customer service, even though GOOD LORD YOU ARE *NOT* THEIR CUSTOMER, it will not be responded to.
If you contact the seller, it's possible they'll take down the image, but it's also possible they won't.
And why would you give someone who knowingly stole from you the benefit of the doubt like that?
Like, they're using your actual hard work and original photos to sell something?
This is not their oversight. This is theft.


Here's what I'd do if I were you, which I did, because I'm me and I went through this and it was hell because there's no clear guide on how to file a copyright complaint with Alibaba:


Do not contact the seller directly. They stole from you.

Register for an account on ipp.alibabagroup.com (click English for English)

Go to "IPR Management" and Submit IPR

IPR Registration Number: Your shop name or artwork collection
IPR Name / Description: Description of your shop or artwork or copyright
IPR Owner: Your legal name
IPR Type: Most likely copyright (for photos?)
IPR Registration Region: Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, or OVERSEAS
IPR Validity period: when your shop opened to a long time into the future.

Add Documents:

  • a DMCA takedown notice

  • a contact sheet of every photo you aim to protect - ie. your catalog (I printed my entire etsy shop to PDF, scaled up 16 pages per sheet, and submitted literally every listing from my shop as a JPG in this contact sheet form. It took time and effort.)

  • a screen shot of your shop

  • a screen shot of a sample listing

  • Upload this exact signed copyright claimant form: http://img.alibaba.com/images/cms/upload/Onlinesecurity_used/2012/copyright_claim_statement.pdf


Identity verification:

  • Upload your driver's license

  • Upload your business permit or reseller permit

this is very invasive but required.

--- then ---

  • Wait 1-2 weeks to hear back about whether your account was approved

  • If they need additional info, fix your application, and send it back in.


--- then ---

  • Once approved, you can submit the listings by URL that are stealing from you in bulk, and Alibaba will auto-notify all of the sellers of the complaint with a record of their infringement.


It's a pain in the butt to do all this, but if shops are caught infringing repeatedly, their shops suffer severe but appropriate consequences.


It's worth doing, for all of us who make original work.

I'm tired of reading about people who just shrug their shoulders and say "oh well, what can I do?" when there's actually a lot you can do and it's a complete abuse of our shared rights if you just overlook it and turn a blind eye with some bs about how your customers care.

Yes, it sucks. But laziness on this issue is dangerous to you and to me.

I believe it's other artists' passive attitudes toward protecting their work that has made image theft and art theft so common.
Obviously the people stealing are the villains, but I think they're being opportunistic.
They know that people tend not to react when stolen from.
But it *is* empowering to stand up for yourself.

So I guess what I'm saying is:

React.

Comments

Sarah Anderson
Aug. 31st, 2016 06:00 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for this post. Having experienced only a tiny portion of the design theft that you've endured, I can say that it's so much more deflating and demoralizing than I thought it would be.

I can hardly bear to look at the listings on Alibaba, but you've made it seem possible to tackle. I'm starting the process of filing complaints tonight.

Thanks for giving me hope that it's something I can handle, for giving me the tools to get it done, and also for creating such great stuff.

xo

About Me

Hey, I'm Susie. I'm a painter, illustrator, crafter, musician, keeper of various pets and proprietor of the website boygirlparty.com

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